At least 16 die in Kentucky’s ‘epic’ floods, including 6 children

July 29 (Reuters) – The death toll in eastern Kentucky rose to at least 16 on Friday as flooding from “epic” torrential rains washed away homes, washed out roads and pushed up rivers on its banks, state authorities said, warning of more fatalities. they expected

Police and National Guard troops, including personnel from neighboring states, used helicopters and boats to rescue dozens of people from homes and vehicles in Kentucky’s Appalachian coal mining region. Video from local media showed floodwaters reaching the roofs of houses and turning roads into rivers.

“This is not over. While we do search and rescue, there are still real dangers,” Gov. Andy Beshear said at a morning news conference.

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After a helicopter flyover of the worst-hit areas with Deanne Criswell, head of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, Beshear said he was shocked by the extent of the flooding.

Most of Jackson, a town of 2,200 about 100 miles (160 km) southeast of Frankfort, the state capital, was submerged, he said.

“Stands of houses, their ball fields, their parks, businesses, under more water than I think any of us have ever seen in this area,” he told reporters. “Simply devastating.”

The flooding marked the second major national disaster to hit Kentucky in seven months, following a swarm of tornadoes that claimed nearly 80 lives in the western part of the state in December. Read more

Beshear said the flood-related death toll rose to 16 from 15 on Friday, including at least six children, and that the death toll will almost certainly rise as floodwaters recede and search teams find more bodies

“There are still a lot of people missing,” he said, declining to quantify the number missing. “We may be updating the count of how many we’ve lost over the next few weeks.”

The flooding was the result of 5 to 10 inches (13 to 25 cm) of rain falling on the region in 24 hours, a deluge that may be unprecedented in the region’s record books, William Haneberg said. , professor of environmental science and director of the Kentucky Geological Survey.

“It’s a really epic event,” Haneberg said.

The disaster came two weeks after flash flooding from rain inundated the Appalachian community of Whitewood in southwestern Virginia, near the Kentucky border.

The region’s steep slopes and narrow valleys make it prone to flooding, but the increased frequency and severity of rain-driven flooding in the Appalachian region are symptoms of human-induced climate change, Haneberg said.

A flooded valley is seen from a helicopter during a tour by Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear of eastern Kentucky, U.S., July 29, 2022. Office of Governor Andy Beshear/Handout via REUTERS

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Flood events “will be more extreme and more frequent, but it’s hard to predict how extreme and frequent they will be in the future,” he said in an interview.


In Garrett, Kentucky, a coal mining town about 125 miles (200 km) east of Lexington, brown floodwaters swirled down a shopping street and backed up against storefronts, video clips showed. Rescue boats carried people in life jackets along the submerged street, passing on top of vehicles passing through the high water.

“It’s all gone,” Garrett resident Rachel Patton told WCHS-TV as she cried. “We had to swim and it was cold. It was over my head. It was scary.”

At least 300 people in Kentucky have been rescued by emergency crews, Beshear said. That number will likely rise, he said, given that more than 100 people have been saved on National Guard airlifts alone.

Authorities went door-to-door Thursday in a low-lying area of ​​Jackson, evacuating people after inspectors noticed discharge seeping from nearby Panbowl Lake Dam.

“Last night and early this morning, we thought a real breach was imminent,” Beshear said, adding that officials were a little more optimistic Friday morning.

As of Friday afternoon, about 22,000 homes and businesses in Kentucky and 2,200 in West Virginia were without power, according to Widespread disruptions to natural gas service, water treatment and communication networks were also reported, the governor said.

Flood warnings and watches remained in effect throughout the day for the eastern half of Kentucky, as well as northeastern Tennessee and western West Virginia, where more rain was expected to raise waterways very high. above flood stage, the National Weather Service said.

The North Fork Kentucky River in Jackson crested more than 14 feet (4 meters) above flood stage, a record, early Friday, according to government monitors.

Up to a foot (30 cm) of rain has fallen in parts of the region in the past week, according to the weather service.

President Joe Biden declared a major disaster in Kentucky on Friday, allowing federal funds to be allocated to the state.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for six counties in his state on Thursday, where heavy rains caused flooding that disrupted drinking water systems and blocked roads.

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Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Stephen Coates and William Mallard

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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